French fighter jets fly over Cyprus EEZ

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Two Rafale fighter aircraft of the French Air Force flew over Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone on Tuesday in a show of support for Nicosia as tensions rise in the region.

According to CNA sources, their presence over Cyprus falls within the framework of the newly activated defence pact between Nicosia and Paris.

It is also part of what was agreed during the meeting held in Paris last month between Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.

The two “Rafale” type fighters are accompanied by a military transport aircraft of the French Air Force.

They arrived on Monday afternoon at the Andreas Papandreou airbase in Paphos and will depart on Wednesday, the sources said.

Escalating tensions between Greece and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean is a cause for concern, European Commission foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano said.

“We agree that the situation in the eastern Mediterranean is extremely worrying and needs to be solved in dialogue and not in a series and sequence of steps that are increasing the escalation and the tension.”

He said the EU stands “in full solidarity” with Greece and Cyprus.

Turkey will issue gas exploration and drilling licences in the eastern Mediterranean, its foreign minister said on Tuesday, further raising tensions with Greece which seeks an emergency EU meeting to address the issue.

The two NATO allies vehemently disagree about their overlapping claims for hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean.

On Monday, Turkey sent an exploration vessel into a disputed area, ending a brief period of calm brokered by Germany.

Ankara said a maritime deal Greece signed with Egypt last week showed it could not trust Athens and vowed to continue its activity inside Greek and Cyprus waters.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey’s Oruc Reis exploration vessel would continue its work, and Ankara would issue new seismic exploration and drilling licenses by the end of August.

Nicosia and Athens have condemned these moves as illegal.